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Westham 100: Spanning the Century

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Westham Island is connected to the rest of Ladner by the swing-span Westham Island Bridge that was officially opened on March 29, 1910.

The Westham Island Bridge is located over Canoe Pass connecting Westham Island the historic Port Guichon in the Corporation of Delta. The bridge is comprised of a partial-single lane Howe Truss and Callender-Hamilton truss swing bridge made from heavy timber frame elements.

Heritage Value

The completion of the bridge in 1909 offered a fixed connection between Westham Island and Port Guichon, allowing the farmers who lived and worked on the 1,214-hectare island to transport their goods to and from markets with greater ease; prior to the construction of the bridge, a small ferry was used to connect Westham Island to the mainland. Road access from Delta to Vancouver was not provided until the opening of the Massey Tunnel in 1959, though beginning early in the twentieth century, produce was shipped from Westham Island to both Vancouver and Victoria via the Fraser River.

Structure

The The Westham Island Bridge is valued additionally for its structure, and is significant as a rare surviving example of a Howe truss swing-bridge and the only bridge of its kind in the Lower Mainland. The design was first developed by American engineer William Howe (1803 - 1852) in the 1840s. The The Westham Island Bridge was built with a combination of heavy timber diagonal beams to absorb compression, intersected by vertical iron rods to control tension. It is designed to support immense weight and pressure while remaining simple in design and inexpensive in construction, its engineering is based on functionality and the use of plentiful local materials, rather than aesthetics. The construction of the bridge is robust, with a heavy timber frame and thick iron rods to support both horizontal pressure and vertical tension. The original design of the 325-meter bridge incorporated a manual swing mechanism operated by a bridge conductor who would insert a long iron rod into a centre wheel rotating the bridge until the passage was wide enough for marine vehicles to pass. The operation of the swing mechanism has been electrified, though the original manual controls remain intact.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the The Westham Island Bridge include its:

  • location spanning Canoe Pass, connecting Westham Island and historic Port Guichon
  • original form, scale and massing as expressed by its one-storey height with partial single-lane construction
  • original Howe truss design such as its heavy timber diagonal beams and vertical iron rod tension supports
  • swing-span operation including the original manual swing-span controls
  • orginal dimensions of 325 meters long
  • views from the bridge of the surrounding rural landscape

from the Draft Statements of Significance, 2009, Donald Luxton & Associates, September, 2009